By Delia Lavender
I do not own the television series L.O.S.T., or any of the characters except for
those of my own invention. I write only for fun.
Jack Shephard didn't like weddings...he was only attending this one to get drunk. James LaFleur, on the other hand, had a better reason to attend...
He was looking for the well – or, more exactly – for the wheel at the bottom of the well. It was this wheel, James hoped, that would give him and Jack an escape route from the Island. He had seen the well before, and remembered its location fairly accurately. He knew it was close to the Temple where the ceremony would be held. As the post nuptial celebration progressed, James figured he'd have ample opportunity to scout around.
But you had to endure the wedding to get to the party. Jack and James stood together, waiting among the rest of John Locke's subjects, forming a well-ordered human aisle for the bride to march on her way to the groom.
Near the Temple entrance stood John Locke, beaming, confident, smiling benevolently at his white clad people.
An all white wedding...Jack could feel his stomach turn over. The ritual white of "Island cult" formal wear always reminded him of Egyptian baggy pajamas. Ben Linus looked especially ridiculous - like a bulging-eyed frog lost in a linen bed sheet. Locke, however, looked imposing in a "gone native" sort of way.
Next to John stood Richard Albert. He actually managed to look natural in his cult robes. How long had he been doing this? Richard held the ancient Book of Prophesies in his arms. His dark eyes gleamed as he surveyed the crowd.
James was looking around nervously, probably trying to locate Kate Austin before she could sneak up behind him. Jack nudged him and jerked his head slightly. Kate was on the other side of the aisle, a safe distance away. James nodded and sighed with relief. Kate's relentless pursuit was beginning to slow. Maybe...maybe she was finally giving up.
At least they hoped she was. James reacted to Kate by running away. Jack supposed that was better than his own reaction, which usually involved booze.
When the flutes started the bride appeared, accompanied by Bernard Nadler, who had found a way to set the bride's diamond using his wife's eyebrow tweezers and a hobbyist's soldering iron. The large diamond was set securely – if a bit clumsily – within the embrace of a wide band Bernard had cast from Island silver. The bride's hand trembled and the five caret rock winked, scattering light over the ancient stones of the Temple's pillared courtyard.
The bride tottered forward on her high heels. The delectable Crystal Flowers...also known as Eva Braun, Eva Peron or, on occasion, as "Bimbo" or "Blonde Joke".
But Jack didn't think this particular blonde was a joke. Something about her face caught his attention. She looked beautiful...but her expression had a quality of frozen, controlled panic. As if she knew she faced a gauntlet – with something frightening awaiting her at the end. Wedding jitters, perhaps?
But what on earth was she wearing? She looked like a giant marshmallow – enveloped in layers of stiff white material that rustled loudly as she walked...
"What...?" whispered Jack to James.
"The dress? It's taffeta. My mom and her sisters spent weeks sewing a dress for my cousin, Marsha. It looked something like this one. Marsha was bigger, though. When she walked down the aisle, it sounded like an old-time passenger train. All she needed was the whistle."
Jack glanced at James, who smirked back at him. "But Eva's really something, ain't she? Awful big dress, though. Old Locke's going to have quiet a time unwrapping her..."
"Shut up..." Jack hissed. The last thing they needed now was to attract attention. Still...it seemed a remote possibility, as the bride passed and he got a good look at her cleavage, projecting perilously above her low cut neckline.
The ceremony didn't last long. Richard read something unintelligible from the book. The bride and groom murmured their consent...although Jack thought the bride sounded a tad reluctant.
The last thing was the hand fasting. Richard gave the book to an assistant and bound the groom's right hand to the bride's left.
Locke leered down at his bride. He looked as though he'd prefer Richard bind the girls entire body to his.
The old goat. The tyrannical old geezer...
But the banquet afterward was good. There was much DARMA wine and champagne, much toasting, much fruit and a roasted pig surrounded by flowers.
James was able to slip away at will. Jack just sat at the low table and drank.
Even after James slipped back and whispered to him: "I found it, doc." Jack continued to drink. This time James joined him.
Everyone was very drunk by the time the procession to Locke's flower-laden tent began. Locke himself was a little unsteady. He crossed the last 25 feet with Crystal slung over his shoulder. She kicked her feet and protested weakly.
The crowd gave a final cheer and staggered away to continue the celebration around the central camp fire.
Jack and James retired to the tent they shared. They drank some more and toasted their escape plans.
"To the wheel." James said, as he raised his mug of DARMA champagne.
"To freedom." said Jack, as he winked at James.
Eventually they passed out. Jack on the low, collapsible cot and James on the floor a few feet away.
* * * * * *
Someone slapped his face. He rolled onto his side.
He was pulled onto his back again. Another slap.
Jack muttered in resentment and turned his head.
"Jack...come on!" Water was dashed into his face...
"Come on, Jack...wake up! Now!"
Jack opened his eyes. John Locke was hovering over him.
Oh, no. They'd been caught. Locke had discovered their plans...
The thought brought him a little sobriety. Jack froze as he stared blearily up at the Island Dictator.
Locke's expression was agitated, his skin livid and blotchy. Jack wondered if the position of Leader precluded the possibility of high blood pressure. Locke looked as if he was about to blow a gasket...
"Jack, get up. My wife is missing!"
Oh, shit. Well...that explained things. Instinctively Jack looked around for James...
James was gone.
Double shit. Flowers and LaFleur were probably in a cave somewhere, plowing away like a couple of horny farmers seeding the next generation...
Like their parents, any new little sprouts would be outrageously attractive.
"Get up, Jack. Don't worry about James...I sent him with Richards group. Now get on your feet and come with me!"
"Wait, John," Jack managed to gasp "Tell me what happened, first."
Locke hesitated, nodded once and sat on the ground beside the cot.
"She's gone. Crystal is gone. I vaguely remember her kissing my forehead, then I went back to sleep. When I woke up her wedding ring was on the pillow beside me...and the back of the tent had been slashed."
For a moment Jack was confused. "John...she can't be far. How can a girl in a big, white, noisy dress possibly..."
"She wasn't wearing the big, noisy dress anymore," said Locke, impatiently "The last time I saw her, she was wearing nothing at all! She'd brought other clothes with her, for heaven's sake. Now, what else do you want to know?"
"What do you think happened, John? How was she acting the last few days? Did she behave normally?"
"No," said Locke. He hung his head wearily. "She seemed nervous and introverted. I thought she had cold feet. I tried to reassure her..."
Jack took a deep breathe and summoned up his courage "Could she have discovered something, John? I've heard you had the 316 castaways purged. Is it true?"
Locke raised his head again. His expression had changed. Now stubbornness and determination dominated his features.
"Yes...I did order a purge. The Island didn't need anyone from that flight...except for your group, Ben and Crystal. I never wanted her to find out - although it's possible she heard some gossip. There were so many seamstresses and workers hanging around, during the past week. Maybe someone talked, when they thought her out of earshot..."
"So it's also true that you sent someone to capture her? She was brought here..."
"By Richard, Bertram and Ernest...yes."
"Bertram and Ernest?"
"The couple who live in the bungalow near Richards. I knew they would never molest Crystal - that she would be safe with them. I knew her habits very well...she liked to take solitary walks in the afternoon. Richard was able to track and capture her before the purge started. He handed her over to Bertram and Ernest. Crystal never heard or saw what happened to the other castaways."
"But John...why put a bag over her head? Why frighten her like that? You could have just asked her..."
"And suppose she refused? I couldn't take that chance. I thought a little fear couldn't hurt. The Island wanted her...I wanted her! I thought, if she could see me as her rescuer..."
Locke stopped speaking. Jack nodded grimly. Despite himself, he felt a little sorry for the man. What could a young woman mean to someone like Locke? Was she the family he never had? Was she his child, as well as his lover? Or was the whole affair just lust and self delusion?
"John...you really ought to talk to Harper..."
"Yes, I know. She's a psychologist. When I find Crystal, I'll send her to Harper. In the meantime – I'd rather talk to you. And we'll need a doctor with us, in case...in case Crystal is hurt. She's athletic, but she doesn't know the jungle. And she may be in the mood to take chances. Get dressed, Jack...and bring your black bag."
* * * * * *
They'd been tramping through the jungle for hours. James was hot, sweaty and he had a headache. Where had Eva gotten to? Ahead of them, Old Man Locke consulted with Richard...
James watched, mildly amused. He had never seen Locke look so congested before...and he had never seen Richard look so long-suffering.
Little Eva had certainly stirred things up...
Behind him, Jack was questioning Bertram and Ernest. Apparently he thought that "understanding Crystal's state of mind" might help lead them to her.
"There's bears out here...suppose she meets a bear?" whimpered Ernest, the smaller of the two men. Ernest was known for his sensitivity. He had become quite close to Crystal, in the weeks following her arrival at camp.
"Don't let anyone tell you Crystal is a slut," said the taller, beetle-browed Bertram "She loves the Leader. She called out his name several times, as we were hauling her through the jungle. We hated frightening her, but we were following orders..."
"Bertram," interrupted Jack "Do you think she ever recognized you, later on? Did she ever realize it was you and Ernest who..."
"We don't think so. We spoke very little – and we disguised our voices the few times we needed to speak. And of course she always had that bag over her head. Ernest...stop crying!"
James wondered if Eva had taken her big, white, taffeta dress with her. That dress ought to distract the bears. They'd probably mistake it for a prospective mate long enough for Goldilocks to run...
But then another thought struck him.
Eva had disappeared so completely. As if she'd been...swallowed up? He remembered how he had first heard about the wheel's function. He had been spying on Locke and Eva as they played billiards in the rec. room at the Barracks...
How Locke had explained to Eva about the well...and the wheel at the bottom. How the wheel would move the Island - how the wheel would send someone to the mainland. About his adventures in Tunisia...
Why had it never occurred to Locke that Eva might...
No. Impossible. Little Eva wasn't capable of shimmying down a long rope into a dark well...was she?
She was a timid little thing. She wasn't that strong...
If she tried it, she would fall. If she fell she would die...
Or she could be lying injured and alone at the bottom of that dark pit.
Damn it...how was he going to suggest this to Locke?...
James was still wondering how to approach his miserable Leader when there was a sudden, brilliant flash of blinding white light. A vast, humming sound hurt his ears. Then the ground shook and the Island moved....